Monday, October 6, 2014

The Reason I Jump, Book Review: 30 Days of Random

Today's installment of crowd-sourced blog topics is "Review a recent book you've read".  And because this came up in the comments of a Facebook post, and because I was already thinking about is my review of the book "The Reason I Jump", by Naoki Higashida.  

The book is essentially a twice-translated autistic boy's explanation for why he is the way he is, and why autistic people are they way they are.  It was "all the buzz" a year ago, and so for that reason I thought I'd jump myself...on the bandwagon, that is (ba dum bum...see what I did there??  Huh?  Clever???).

It covers many topics.  Each topic has its own chapter.  It reads very very quickly.  And...I didn't like it.

What I didn't like about it was that it came across as written by a 13 year-old. Which is awesome in a way, because a 13 year old did write it. But awful in another way because...well...13 year-olds pretty much suck at writing (in general!!). So as 13 year-old writing goes, it was good. But....I have a bit more refined tastes (in writing). Not every chapter should start with a topic sentence, five sentences discussing the topic sentence and then a summary sentence..."People ask me why I Z (where Z = the chapter topic). I Z because of this (discusses the reasons). It makes me feel good to Z because (discuss reasons why it feels good). When I Z in public it is to establish Y (Why Y is a good thing for all autistic people in his opinion). And that is why all autistic people Z." Multipy this by the number of chapters in the book and you have, in essence, "The Reason I Jump".
Secondly, I found myself very skeptical about what was written and by whom. It was taken, translated by his aide to words, then translated by someone else from Japanese to English. And I was skeptical throughout about "what is HIS" and "what is his translator's" agenda and it made it hard to read without skepticism constantly inserting question marks where none were intended.

Finally, while I thought there were some neat insights...they're his. I have a very difficult time with generalities and universal truths and this book is riddled with, "And that's why all autistics do X" autistic child doesn't do X. Or even like X. It's all speculation. I think it's fantastic that he's able to explain why he does X. But the divergence between what he describes as his autistic life and what I observe with my daughter's...made the whole book just seem like "one autistic person's view of why all autistic people do some autistic-specific thing".  Which made it no more valuable to me than any other one autistic person's opinion about why all autistic people do a thing.

I found it difficult to finish. I...find it difficult to finish. The chapters are short, but I've probably only made it through three quarters of them because I always find something else that I want to do more with my time than read the next 2 minute chapter. Like...clip my toenails, or sleep, or brush my teeth.  And I hate to give up on the book, because so many people have found it earth-shaking or perspective-shifting or whatever.  And maybe those people are just...less dialed into the autism community than I am.  Which is not to suggest I'm an expert, but I've heard lots of explanations about behaviors or struggles from autistic blog authors, autistic support group members, therapists, etc, so even the "revelations" that came with the book did not seem particularly revelatory to me.

If I wrote book reviews more frequently I would have some clever means of ranking them.  Because flapping is universally a sign of autistic happiness (my autistic daughter doesn't flap, by the way) I will give this book two out of five possible flaps.  I think that it's worth the read if you just walked out of the doctor's office fresh from a diagnosis and accidentally stumbled into a book store where you crash into a display holding this book and you're thinking..."It's a sign!"  Then you should buy it and read it, and then after you've read it, read some more, talk to more people, read some blogs, involve yourself in groups with autistic members, do some research, but mostly love your child and learn what makes him/her tick, because you won't find it (necessarily) in this book. 

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